What to Do If Your Tree Is Infested with Ants-The Complete Guide 

Like it or not, if you have trees, pests and insects are bound to come and bother your trees and plants. The same goes for the tree ants. You might often spot ants in your lovely garden, bothering your trees. While some might not mean any harm (maybe they are just taking shelter during bad weather), some can be dangerous for your trees and harm them.

But how will you know when they are harmful and when they are harmless? Immensely when sometimes ants can help you spot tree ailments. Now before you get into how you can rid of ants, let us first discuss why they get into your tree in the first place.

Ants come to your trees only for two reasons. They are either looking for some leftover nectar from the flowers or looking for a place to build their home. Most often, they build their homes inside the cavities of the trunk and roots of your trees. Ants only build a home in trees that are decaying or have cavities, so they often help you know that your tree is not healthy and it needs immediate attention.

But the question remains, are they are harmful to your tree or not? For that, we first must check out the types of tree ants.

Types of Tree Ants

Types of Tree Ants

Carpenter Ants

They get the name from their carpenter-like activity, which is digging into your tree’s trunk. If you ever spot sawdust around your tree, then you can be sure that a gang of giant black carpenter ants are at play. In that case, you should immediately call your arborist and discuss if you should remove the plant.

The reason behind this is, if a gang of carpenter ants is at your tree, then there are high chances that the tree has decayed portions with lots of cavities that increase the risk of the tree falling on its own.

This can lead to an accident, so to be on the safe side, you should call your arborist and discuss this with him as soon as possible.  You should not rush. You need first to discuss your tree’s state, and if it is too critical, you should remove it.

Red Imported Fire Ants

These are the dangerous ones. They are not just harmful to your trees but can also harm you and your family. It is relatively easy to spot them. If you see grey or mud-colored little anthills surrounding your tree’s trunk base, you can be sure that you have a severe tree ant crisis.

They are not just harmful to young plants and trees, but they sting hard, and it burns and hurts a lot. This is even more dangerous if you have pets or children at home. In this case, the best thing to do would be to consult an arborist and discuss using an insecticide.

How Serious Is the Carpenter Ant Attack on Your Tree?

Before we move to how you can remove the tree ants, let us discuss the issue in detail.

Now cutting off the tree is the last option, that is, if the tree has no more life left in it and its roots are entirely rotten, but if that is not the case, you still have a chance to keep your tree alive. And speaking of the tree ants, they might not cause decay, but they certainly prevent your tree from recovering.

Cutting off the tree at the very first instance of spotting tree ants is not a wise decision because then it will only move to another plant nearby and attack it, or worse, it might get into your house, and having carpenter ants in your house is only going to cause extra trouble.

Apart from the stings, they will start damaging all your furniture made of wood, starting from your chairs, cabinets, or even showpieces if they are made of wood. So, the real challenge here is to eliminate them.

How to Kill the Tree Ants?

Ant Powder

One of the easiest ways to do this is to sprinkle ant powder around the tree. The moment they try to leave the tree for food or anything else and the powder brushes against their body, the poison kills them.

It is super useful because it does not just kill the ants that touch the powder, but since ants eat their own fellow mate’s dead body, they also kill those ants who consume the poison second hand. However, remember to sprinkle the ant powder again after it rains or water the tree because water washes away the powder. So, you can get rid of all the ants fast and effectively without putting in much effort or time.


You can also use ant-baits to get rid of them. Ant baits contain insecticides mixed with things that can attract the ant, mostly food substance, and once they consume it, it will poison them, and they will die very soon.

It works fast because generally, when ants see a food item, they do not eat it alone. Instead, they give it to everyone else. So once a tree ant spots the bait, they will call other ants and carry it inside, share it with everyone, including the queen ant resulting in the death of the entire colony of ants. So just spread some ant baits around the tree, and you will soon get rid of those ants.


Another right way to get rid of ants is to use peppermint. Ants are naturally repelled by peppermint and their smell, so they leave behind everything and run away every time they come near it. To prepare this, you need to add 30 drops of peppermint oil in about a gallon of water, then spray it on your tree’s trunk and roots. As soon as the scent of peppermint reaches their nose through the air, they will immediately run away, and you will get rid of them for a long time.

Boiling Water

You can also use boiling water. Although this technique is cruel, many people use it to get rid of tree ants. All you need to do is take some water (depending upon the number of ants that have attacked your tree) and heat it to the boiling point.

Now take that boiling water and pour it on the anthills. Do this during the day and in the evening, at the times when they are most active. Repeat this process for a few days, and you will get rid of them. Not just the boiling water will kill most of them, but also, the remaining of the gang will be scared to live, build a home, or even come near that place.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

You can also take the help of diatomaceous earth. These are sharp shards of fossilized sea life, and each time an ant tries to walk over it, they will be sliced into two and die of pain or dehydration. However, this is not a very effective way to get rid of the tree ants faster because the ants do not carry these back to their home, and hence the ones staying inside are not killed. Also, when the news spreads of these deaths, then the ones staying inside will not be coming out of the cavities for a long time, hence delaying the solution to your problem.

Commercial Sticky Traps

Commercial Sticky Traps

If you want to choose a less cruel way, then you can set up the sticky traps readily available at the stores. All you need to do is get one from the store and place it all around the infected tree, and once an ant walks out of the tree and into the trap, it gets stuck on it. The adhesive is so strong that it cannot free itself no matter how hard it tries.

Although some people find it less cruel and violent, we feel that they die a prolonged and painful death out of starvation and dehydration in this way. Instead, using a method that will get rid of them instantly is a better idea.

White Vinegar

White Vinegar

Another easy way to kill unwanted tree ants in your garden is white vinegar. If you are looking for a simple method, then this one is for you. Pour about 1 liter of white vinegar on the anthills, and all the ants meeting the vinegar will die without harming your trees. One thing that you should keep in mind is that you should not dilute the vinegar. Do not think about saving vinegar by diluting it with water. This remedy will only work with it 100% concentrated white vinegar.

Dishwashing liquid and oil

Dishwashing liquid and oil

Another excellent way to get rid of tree ants is by dishwashing liquid and oil. You need to mix half a teaspoon of a dishwashing liquid to one and a half spoon of any oil (essential oil would be preferred), then add it to about 1 liter of water.

Once the mixture is ready, please put it in a spray bottle and spray it on the infected area. This mixture will seep into the ant’s exoskeleton and suffocate them to death. It is a cost-effective method with a high success rate that you can try out to get rid of tree ants fast.

Boric Acid and Sugar

Boric Acid and Sugar

This is perhaps the best home remedy to get rid of ants. Take some boric acid(mild) and mix it with sugar until it becomes a paste. Take that paste and place small drops of it around their nest. Ants have a soft corner for sweet stuff, so they will come out, eat it, and carry some back to the queen ant and shortly after eating the mixture, all the ants will die due to the boric acid.

If you do not want to go through the hassle of creating this mixture, you can also use a readymade ant-killing gel that works similarly. You need to put drops of this gel near the anthills instead of the paste, and all the ants will eat it and die, including the queen ant, just how it happened with the mixture of boric acid and sugar.

Essential Oils

essential Oil

Like peppermint, tree ants cannot bear the smell of essential oil, like tea tree oil, lavender oil, or even rosewood. So, if you want to get rid of ants without killing them, then you can pose some essential oil (any of your choice) in a spray bottle and spray it on the anthills. The smell will irritate them and drive them out of their nests, saving your trees from the ants.

Ant Killer Poison & Pesticides

Ant Killer Poison & Pesticides

One of the easiest ways to get rid of ants if you want something fast and effective without going through the hassles of making them ant killer poison, and pesticides are the way to go. You can get them from any nursery or garden center, and there you will even get some advice from the experts on which solution to use and how long and how frequently and then apply it.

Also, the day you do it, make sure you keep your children and pets always from that area so that they do not end up getting harmed.

So, these were how you could get rid of tree ants and improve your plant’s health. Remember, plants are just like children. They need a lot of pampering and care to grow and be healthy.

So, you must take excellent care of your plant and make sure to take immediate action as soon as you spot an ant around your tree for the first time because if you do not take immediate action, you might end up losing your tree. We hope you found this article helpful, and if you have any more queries, feel free to reach out to us in the comment section below.

Ellie Murphy

Ellie Murphy earned her Master’s in Entomology from Purdue University and has spent 17 years in the field of pest control, focusing on integrated pest management and public health. She became a part of our team as a freelancer in 2021, offering her expertise in safe and effective pest control techniques. Ellie’s background includes conducting research in pest biology and developing community education programs. In her free time, she enjoys gardening and is an active member of a local hiking club.

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